Friday, July 24, 2009
I am not a vegan (or even a vegetarian for that matter), I am not diabetic, I am not allergic to gluten, and, as far as I know, I don't have any sensitivities to wheat. However, in an effort to be kinder to my thighs, I am trying to cut back on sugar. Also, having struggled with my weight in the 90s, when low-fat diets were all the rage, I'm slightly butter-phobic. I don't mind a tablespoon or two, but two sticks in that cake or cookie recipe? I just can't get with it. I know they say everything in moderation, but moderation's not my thing, particularly when baked goods are in the house. Enter Babycakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked About Bakery (to all of the haters on Amazon who ranted about the fact that the word "Mostly" wasn't in front of the "Gluten-Free," it appears they've officially changed the title to include it, so there).
This cookbook is the stuff of dreams. All of the butter is replaced by coconut oil, one of those good fats that you can feel good about eating. According to the book, coconut oil is stored as energy rather than fat and it helps regulate the metabolism. All of the refined sugar is replaced with either Agave nectar or evaporated cane juice, both much more wholesome and nutritious. I have only made the Lemon-Poppy Tea Cake thus far (made it TWICE actually; see above photo), but it is incredibly moist and delicious and I can only assume that there's much more wholesome deliciousness in store for me as I bake my way through the rest of this book.
And now a word on the criticism, the intense hateration in the Amazon comments that has kept me from buying this book for so long. It's really UNFAIR. I'll respond to a few of the most irritating criticisms:
1. The whole "not everything is gluten-free!" rant. Right, no, not everything is, but there are like 30 recipes that are! And Erin is very clear about this if you bother to read the introduction. Yes, the original title does not include "(Mostly)" in front of "Gluten-Free," but it is likely an oversight that the author had nothing to do with and it appears to have been corrected in the most recent printing. Also, BabyCakes itself is not an entirely gluten-free establishment. Erin, the owner and cookbook author, is wheat sensitive rather than allergic, so these recipes are very personal and she's put a lot of thought and effort into coming up with the best combinations for the kind of desserts she enjoys, while being mindful of other diet challenges.
2. Another common rant: the ingredients are hard to find! Well, no, they're not if you really look. My local Whole Foods had every ingredient from the book that I looked for (xanthan gum, coconut oil, agave nectar, brown rice flour, gluten-free all-purpose flour, garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, arrowroot). Bob's Red Mill makes most of the more uncommon ingredients, and they should be all grouped together in the baking supplies aisle. And if you still have trouble, ask someone. I don't know about all Whole Foods, but after shopping there for years, I still have trouble finding simple things like golden raisins, so I ask when I can't find. They're helpful at Whole Foods...give it a go.
3. The fairest of the rants: some of the ingredients are expensive! Yep, they kind of are. And in the case of the coconut oil and agave nectar, a little does not go a long way, so I'm going to have to figure out how to get the best bang for my buck on these items. I think I'm going to try getting them online. However, the most expensive item I bought, xanthan gum, does go a long way, so I have no qualms about the 10 bucks I spent on my bag. And you know, honestly, what Erin has done for vegan and gluten-free baked goods is nothing short of a miracle and I don't expect my edible miracles to be cheap.
So those are the biggies. There are also lots of other annoying ones like "everything tastes awful," "nothing turned out," "this stuff is so hard to make." I just wonder if people are using the right ingredients and following the instructions properly. Baking is more a science than an art. You can't just throw in whatever you like and expect it to turn out. Personally, I found the teacake incredibly easy. I normally don't like to cook late at night (too lazy), but I was in need of something healthy to take to work for snacking, and I whipped up my second teacake in under 20 minutes and then popped it in the oven. Easy peasy.
So, that was a long post, but I feel strongly that some folks are giving people the wrong idea about this cookbook. And, honestly, if it hadn't been for Mav's wonderful post last week, I probably wouldn't have bought this book. And, boy, would I be missing out.